If you care about police, wear a mask

Published 11:00 am Thursday, August 13, 2020

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Across the country, a series of “Blue Lives Matter” rallies popped up, even in our county at the nearby lake. And our local officers deserve plenty of recognition.

Later, several came by a local convenience store. I was the only one around with a mask.

I’m not sure how seriously people are taking this pandemic. I get no shortage of emails that sharply disagree with my columns calling for restrictions, distancing, and mask wearing.

Would you take such precautions if it could save an officer’s life? The “Officer Down Memorial Page” documents all fatalities among officers and others in law enforcement. They have found officer deaths by gunfire are down 6%, and auto deaths of officers is up only 7%. But there’s a whopping 166% increase in other deaths, many of them from COVID-19.

In fact, with 76 deaths due to the coronavirus, it’s the leading killer of officers and others in the line of duty, dwarfing gunfire deaths by a wide margin (29). And many of these deaths are in red states that rushed their reopening. New York had two police officers die of COVID-19. Texas had 21 in law enforcement perish from the pandemic, leading the nation.

Earlier this summer, I did a ride-along. I could see how close the officer had to get to do his job. He was well-received, as our police department is respected in the community. But I saw mighty few masks. I am sure I will get some critiques of the column, and these facts. They’ll probably take shots at the ODMP data. It doesn’t fit with the mantra that Black Lives Matter is responsible for officer deaths.

I’ve also covered Black Lives Matter rallies. Most marchers had masks. They didn’t get in the faces of officers to scream and spit like that Midwestern protester who made national news shouting in close proximity in the faces of officers protecting the capital.

You may go out, without a mask, bunch up with plenty of others, ignoring national health guidelines, and disregard hand washing and hand sanitizers, and claim “Well, I haven’t seen a cop all day!” But pandemics spread through people. You can’t guarantee you won’t pass on something to an officer, with potentially catastrophic results.

So, if the phrase “Blue Lives Matter” is more to you than just a campaign slogan, if it actually means something in your heart, help our officers who are not only essential, but have to interact closely with the public. Their lives are on the line, stalked by two invisible enemies: the virus and vanity.